The global society is currently at a much more sexually permissive place for women than it was 50 years ago but, as always, there is still so much more room for growth. Women and girls across the world have a better understanding of their entitlement to engage in sex and sexual activities. However, there seems to be a growth gap between understanding women’s entitlement to engage in sexual activity and understanding their entitlement to sexual pleasure. New York Time’s bestselling author and Journalist, Peggy Orenstein, argues that although a lot of young women feel entitled to engage in sex and sexual activities most don’t feel entitled to sexual pleasure. She further argues that scale by which women judge their satisfaction is so vastly different to men’s and simultaneously not reliable.
The differences in the ranking of sexual satisfaction for women engaging in heterosexual activities and that of women engaging in homosexual activities can be attributed to differences in the core traits of men and women. While men tend to be strong, powerful, impassive and their sexuality simple, women are generally soft, nurturing, emotional and their sexuality a function of vast and varied variables (both known and unknown). It is therefore a natural conclusion that women are better equipped than men to understand and interpret the sexual needs and desires of another woman. Be that as it may, it does not explain why men have higher sexual satisfaction ranking than women.
This difference can be attributed to history and the historical roles of women is society. It is without a shadow of doubt that women have been systematically oppressed throughout history. Until recently, women have been encouraged to shut up and be quiet, docile creatures. Considering the historical roles of women, it follows that women are reluctant, if at all willing to express their wishes and desires when it comes to sexual intercourse. It also doesn’t help that female orgasms are considered an enigma and that the male ego can be oh-so fragile. As much as women may know what they want from a man when it comes to sex, they may opt to not communicate their desires out of fear of hurting their partner’s feelings. Men on the other hand, have no qualms about stating what they want because history has allowed them to be bold, daring and vocal.
This gap in sexual satisfaction can be further attributed to sex education. At the core of sex education is responsibility; sex education encourages young men and women to practice safe sex. But secondary to this message of safe sex, and I assume unintentionally, is the inevitability of male pleasure. Besides informing young people about STIs and STDs, sex education teaches young people that guys get erections (guys seem to think these are tons of fun) and women get periods as well as fall pregnant (women kind of despise periods and although children are a blessing, this is not something you want to get into too quickly). Although subtle, there is an implicit negativity regarding women’s sexuality.
So, what is it that can and must be done to ensure that women get the most out of sexual activities? The first thing is to replace sex education with sensuality studies, whose core message is a healthy balance of responsibility and pleasure.Sensuality studies would shift the focus from responsibility and the outcomes of unprotected sex and include important, but currently ignored, sexual challenges. Secondary to pleasure and responsibility is teach both guys and girls about the female anatomy outside of its reproductive purposes.
Secondly, we should normalize serious and sustained conversations about sex and sensuality. As an adult, finding oneself in a sexually charged situation is almost inevitable and most us of will deal with these situations as we have seen in romance movies and read in shitty romance novels (don’t look at me) because these are our only sources of “conversation”. Among ourselves, women should share their experiences. It’s not the intimate details that make a difference, but the approach to the situation as well as finding your voice in intimate set-ups. Normalizing dialogue on sexuality also removes the shame associated with women who have a sexual appetite.
"The political and sexual are intimate bedfellows"~Shereen El Feki
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